911 texting feature coming to Charleston County

911 texting feature coming to Charleston County


The Charleston County Consolidated Dispatch is preparing to make emergency texting available to residents in the Lowcountry.

Earlier this year, the Federal Communications Commission asked major cell phone carriers to start providing a new feature that allows users to text 911 for help.

"They will simply put 911 in their phone and send the message to us and we will reply," Allyson Burrell, Deputy Director of Charleston County Consolidated 911 Center, said.

Charleston County Consolidated 911 Center will soon be able to take your emergencies by text message.

"Certainly it's the way of the future," Burrell said. "It's like texting a friend or family member."

The Charleston County Consolidated Dispatch Center already has the equipment in place to do it, according to Burrell. However, beyond training their call takers, educating the public on the correct way to use it will also be important.

"Not use any type of slang, not use emoticons, converse with us as you would on the phone," said Burrell.

Burrell says it'll be better than calling 911 in certain emergencies.

"Maybe you have someone who is breaking into your house and you can't communicate with us, maybe in some type of a domestic violence situation," said Burrell. "Anytime where you feel that you are not safe and you cannot communicate out loud, that is when text to 911 is going to be critical."

"I know I have friend who are deaf who have a really hard time if something was to happen they wouldn't be able to get in touch with anybody," Charleston resident Emily Roberts said. "I think its a really great idea."

But emergency texting it does have a drawback.

"We're going to have to ask questions, so there's going to be a delay in communicating back and forth between the call taker and the texter," Burrell said.

That's why Burrell says their slogan will be, "Call if you can, text if you can't."

"I mean if you're in a situation where you're with someone dangerous and you don't want to make any noise, what are you going to do? So texting is a little more inconspicuous," Charleston resident Jessica Cabe said.

Burrell says they're shooting to implement this new texting feature by the end of 2014, sometime hopefully in December. They are working with the four major cell phone providers to roll it out.

Charleston County dispatch officials say this is just the beginning of how they're going to enhance their services. They say they'd like to eventually be able to receive photos and videos through the 911 text message feature as well.

"It will only enhance the service that we can provide the public," Burrell said.

If Charleston County residents try to text 911 now, they will receive a a text message from their service provider saying the service was unavailable.

Copyright WCSC 2014. All rights reserved.